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”The much-anticipated reports by Sir David Calvert-Smith and Brian Altman QC into failings at the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in their Unaoil and Serco investigations were published on 21 July. As Lisa Osofsky, Director of the SFO, said on their publication the reports “are a sobering read”.
Background to the Reviews
On 26 April 2021, the trial of R -v- Woods and Marshall collapsed at Southwark Crown Court when the SFO offered no evidence. The case concerned the SFO’s prosecution of Mr Woods and Mr Marshall, both former directors of Serco, in relation to allegations of false accounting concerning the provision of electronic monitoring services within the criminal justice system: an investigation which commenced in October 2013. The collapse of the trial followed the discovery of significant disclosure problems with the trial Judge refusing the SFO’s application for an adjournment. In May 2021, Lisa Osfosky commissioned Brian Altman QC “to examine the circumstances, facts and matters which caused or contributed to the disclosure failures” in the case.
On 10 December 2021, the Court of Appeal Criminal Division gave judgment in the appeals against conviction of Ziad Akle and the appeal against sentence for Paul Bond. Both had been convicted of bribery in respect of their involvement in corruption to secure Iraqi oil contracts. The SFO opened an investigation into Unaoil in July 2016. The Court of Appeal overturned Akle’s conviction on the basis that the SFO had failed to comply with its disclosure obligations and the trial judge had wrongly refused to order further disclosure with regard to the extent of the SFO’s contact with David Tinsley, a so-called ‘fixer’, who approached the SFO and, in the ensuing dialogue, indicated that he might be able to assist in persuading persons charged by the SFO to plead guilty; he did not, however, represent those people, and the SFO knew they were represented by lawyers in the UK. Paul Bond subsequently had his conviction overturned in March 2022 with another defendant, Stephen Whiteley’s conviction being overturned in July 2022.”
* This article was first published by Law360 on 18 August 2022. If you wish you read the full article please visit Law360 website.
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